Chrysler's heavily-reworked 300 series sedan will become the new flagship model of the Lancia range, and will go on sale across its mainland European dealer network in October (while in the UK it will be badged as a Chrysler) dubbed the Thema, reviving the nameplate of Lancia's last-but-two executive sedan.


Chrysler's facelifted Sebring, now dubbed the 200, will be presented in sedan (above) and convertible (below) formats in Geneva next month under the famous ‘Flavia’ name, with Lancia saying that it could arrive in European showrooms within six months if it is given the go-ahead.


Beloved of rental car companies and Florida pensioners, the Chrysler Sebring convertible has carved itself out a niche in the U.S., now Lancia is evaluating whether it can find more buyers in Europe.


Chrysler's Town & Country will be badged by Lancia this year and it will replace the Phedra in the range. The European name for the Chrysler minivan, the Grand Voyager, is carried straight over to the Lancia application. In 27 years of production the Town & Country has sold 13 million units through 120 countries.

Lancia has released first official photoshops and information of its trio of new ‘badge engineered’ models drawn from the Chrysler range – the Flavia (200), Thema (300) and Grand Voyager – just a couple of weeks ahead of their world previews at next month’s Geneva Motor Show.

To introduce three recently facelifted Chrysler models into the Lancia range with virtually no changes being wrought is a massive gamble for Fiat’s management to take; certainly, it is one of the most cynical ‘rebadging’ attempts made by any car manufacturer in recent years. If it pays off, however, the cost savings will reap significant rewards for the Italian carmaker. However, the cars will likely fall short of the exacting standards expected by European car buyers, meaning that Lancia’s management will have a tough marketing task ahead of them to link the trio with consumers. This has not prevented Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne laying out a heady target for the rebadged Chryslers – in an interview with Forbes last week, he made it clear he expected sales of at least 30,000 units a year divided between the three models.

Chrysler’s new-for-2011 300 series sedan will become the new flagship model of the Lancia range, and it will go on sale across Lancia’s mainland European dealer network in October dubbed the Thema, reviving the nameplate of Lancia’s fondly-remembered 1980s executive sedan. The new Thema will be available in two trim levels – Oro and Platino – and three engine versions: the 292 hp 3.6-litre ‘Pentastar’ V6 petrol engine paired with ZF’s new 8-speed automatic gearbox, and VM Motori’s 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine in two power levels, 190 and 224 hp (the latter also developing 550Nm), both hooked up to the current 300’s Daimler-sourced 5-speed automatic gearbox.

The petrol engine is the Pentastar V6 by Chrysler Group which features the latest technology – in compliance with Euro 5 legislation – which enables the six cylinders to deliver 292 hp at 6400 rpm and maximum torque of 353 Nm at 4800 rpm, with CO2 emissions of 199g/km (combined cycle consumption: 8.3l/100km). This allows the new Thema to achieve a top speed of 230 km/h and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.2 seconds, a result also due in part to the new 8-speed gearbox.

However it is in the VM Motori unit where one of the biggest hurdles to face the Thema in the showrooms lies. Fiat Powertrain confirmed a deal to take a 50 percent stake in the company just last week, but this engine, regarded as heavy and relatively unrefined compared to its rivals, has failed to attract any lasting interest since it was launched in 2004. Lancia’s management are expecting that around 80 percent of the Thema’s sales will come from the diesel version, but in many countries this will also mean it will be hit with a higher tax bracket. It falls close to its diesel rivals in power and torque levels: BMW’s all-aluminium inline 3.0 six has around 241 bhp and 539 Nm, Mercedes-Benz’s 3.0 generates 228 bhp and 539 Nm, while Audi’s 3.0 V6 in the A6 also generates similar figures – 242 bhp and 500 Nm.

Choosing a 3.0 engine as the smallest capacity, rather than a four-cylinder engine, also means the entry-level Thema will be positioned at a relatively high price point, further restricting its potential market. Moreover, another potential issue for Lancia is that it will be mated to an ageing 5-speed automatic transmission, which won’t help the quest for ever-lower emissions. The press release this morning doesn't provide any performance or emissions data information for the VM 3.0 engine.

The 300 has just earned an IIHS ‘Top Pick’ in the U.S. for safety and this should translate into a Euro NCAP 5-star rating, while the comprehensive revamp for the American sedan means it has been improved in every area including ride quality, noise reduction and comfort, all significant in a luxury sedan. The Thema is 5084 mm long, 1507 mm high, and 1891 mm wide, with a wheelbase of 3051 mm.

The new Thema retains Chrysler’s ‘Uconnect’ infotelematic with features such as touchscreen satellite navigation system and dual-zone climate control, along with the option of customising on-board functions. Fitted as standard on the new flagship, the system features a large 8.4 inch touchscreen with easy-to-use controls, and allows users to connect and manage their peripheral devices (mobile phones or MP3 players). Furthermore, on the Platino trim level, Lancia Thema offers the exclusive Garmin satellite navigation system as standard which includes TMC Premium services, plus a premium audio system with 9 speakers and subwoofer for a total of 506 watt amplification.

Lancia Grand Voyager

Chrysler’s Town & Country is the second car to be badged by Lancia, and will replace the Phedra in the range. The European name for the Chrysler minivan, the Grand Voyager, is carried straight over to the Lancia application, rather than embossing it with an Italianesque title. In 27 years of production the Town & Country/Voyager has sold 13 million units through 120 countries.

The Town & Country has just been given a facelift by Chrysler as part of refreshes made across its range and the Lancia version of the minivan is essentially unchanged apart from engines specific to the European market. Unfortunately, the VM Motori 2.8 CRD unit (featuring a particulate filter as standard) carries over from its previous guise in the Chrysler Grand Voyager. Delivering 163 hp and torque of 360 Nm, fuel consumption is respectable (8.4l/100 km in the combined cycle), albeit hardly best-in-class, while CO2 emissions likewise fail to match the best, at 227g/km. The Grand Voyager is hampered in this respect by its excessive weight and the VM unit’s relative lack of efficiency.

Somewhat oddly, the Grand Voyager will also get the 3.6 ‘Pentastar’ V6, producing 283 hp, mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. No performance figures have been given, but calculations based on the combined fuel economy figure of 12.3l/100km suggest that CO2 emissions with this powertrain will be excessively high. For European markets this version is unlikely to see many buyers and is mostly carried over as the Town & Country is engineered in this format for the North American markets.

Lancia Flavia (concept)

The third Chrysler model to be shown at Geneva will be the facelifted Sebring, now known as the 200 in an attempt to shed a poorly-regarded nametag. It will be presented in sedan and convertible formats under the famous ‘Flavia’ name, with Lancia saying that it could arrive in European showrooms within six months if it is given the go-ahead. Originally not destined to be rebadged, it is believed that CEO Sergio Marchionne decided to green-light the car for production once it was decided that it could generate reasonable volumes in fleet sales with FPT’s 2.0 MultiJet engine under the bonnet. The short press release makes no mention of prospective engines or any technical specifications while the hasty photoshop reveals that just the badges and grille inserts will be changed for its Swiss preview, with even the wheels remaining the same as on the production 200. 

Curiously, Lancia now finds that the bulk of its model range, apart from the Delta (which is manufactured at Cassino alongside its Fiat twin, the Bravo) and the ageing Musa (Mirafiori), will actually be built outside of Italy. The Flavia (200) will be assembled in the U.S., the Grand Voyager (Town & Country) and Thema (300) are made in Canada, and the new Ypsilon is being switched from the Termini Imerese plant in Sicily to the Tychy plant in Poland, currently responsible for the Fiat Panda and 500.

© 2011 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed